By Mandy Hubbard
Available now from Razorbill (Penguin)
DANGEROUS BOY starts in media res, with a girl running from a boy who wants to kill her and who has already killed once. Then it jumps back a month to show how that girl came to be running for her life through the rain.
The girl is Harper and the place is Enumclaw, Washington. It's one of those towns that's half-rural, half-suburban. Harper and her friends fall into the rural part of that equation. But Harper is no tough, strapping farm girl. She's pretty timid all around, on top of her ten big fears, which all relate to her mother's untimely death by extreme sports. Her boyfriend Logan has been doing his best to draw her out of her shell. Then she meets Logan's twin, Daemon. Daemon has to be homeschooled because he did something so bad in their old hometown that they had to leave.
The first half of DANGEROUS BOY was hard for me to put down. It wasn't just wanting to reach that heart-pounding opening scene. There's an extremely creepy atmosphere permeating DANGEROUS BOY. There's suddenly hundreds of dead birds. There are bloody handprints on every car in the school parking lot. People Harper cares about have strange accidents. She receives invasive letters from a stalker.
But then I really slowed down. It got to be too much. As multiple people tell Harper, she really needed to go to the cops. Yet she not only keeps things secret, she keeps trying for face-to-face confrontations with Daemon. I could maybe believe her stubborn insistence on facing down the creeper herself if she hadn't been established as a total scaredy-cat. When she tries to investigate the twins' past, she drives to Cedar Cove but spends her entire time reading the school's newspaper on microfiche instead of talking to people. It may be just me, but I think everybody in a school knows what happened when someone gets expelled.
The ending could've redeemed the increasingly ludicrous second half, but instead things just got sillier. I'd tell you the classic novel DANGEROUS BOY is based on, but it would spoil all the twists. Suffice it to say, the original had a better explanation for how everything happened. Sadly, contemporaries do not allow for mad science.
I can't completely write off DANGEROUS BOY. The atmosphere is fantastic and it gets in several good scares. I would've absolutely loved this during the years I devoured R. L. Stine's Fear Street books. I just wish the second half of the book lived up to the first half.